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04/02/2014

Regional Payroll Growth Rebounds in February

According to last week's regional and state employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Sixth District states added 34,000 payrolls on net, and the unemployment rate declined to 6.4 percent in February. These data follow a much bleaker January report, which indicated that the District shed payrolls for the first time in about a year and a half, losing 20,700 jobs. The new February data are definitely a step in the right direction and perhaps signal that the region's labor markets are getting back on their feet after a few months of slower job growth, a pattern not uncommon over the last few years. Not surprisingly, we've seen a similar pattern during the last few months in the national data as well (see the chart).


However, despite the more positive aggregate Sixth District payroll figure for February, Florida was the primary driver of payroll growth, while Georgia and Mississippi continued to shed jobs.

Payroll survey
Florida added 33,400 payrolls on its own over the month. In fact, Florida saw the third-largest gain of any state in the nation in February, following only California and Texas. Payroll growth in Florida was driven by the construction sector (up 7,200 new payrolls over the month), retail (up 7,000), education and health sectors (up 5,300), and leisure and hospitality (up 3,900).

As for other District states, Tennessee experienced a modest gain in payrolls in February, adding 6,900 jobs. Tennessee's payroll growth over the month was primarily concentrated in professional and business services (up 5,100). Louisiana and Alabama respectively added 1,900 and 200 jobs, while Mississippi (down 2,200 payrolls) and Georgia (down 5,800) continued to shed payrolls (see the chart).


Household survey
The aggregate unemployment rate for the Sixth District declined from 6.5 percent to 6.4 percent in February. Four out of the six District states experienced declines in their unemployment rates and Florida's rate remained unchanged, despite Florida seeing the second-largest one-month increase in that state's labor force on record (up 58,400). The only District state that saw an increase in its unemployment rate in February was Alabama, where the rate of unemployment increased from 6.1 percent to 6.4 percent during the month. This increase comes as Alabama saw the largest-ever one-month increase in its labor force, excluding the temporary hiring boost from the 2010 census. Of the roughly 12,600 additional labor force participants in Alabama from January to February, about 6,800 were unemployed. Of Florida's 58,400 new labor force participants, only about 4,500 were unemployed (see the table).

140402_tbl

Want to find out how many jobs it would take to lower the unemployment rate in any of the 50 states? Check out the Atlanta Fed's State Jobs Calculator.

The next regional and state employment report from the BLS reflecting March data will be released April 18.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department


April 2, 2014 in Data Releases, Employment, Jobs, Labor Markets, Unemployment | Permalink

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03/20/2014

Half Empty or Half Full?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses two monthly surveys to gauge the health of the labor market, both nationally and at the state level. For the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which survey you focus on in January might say a lot about your own preference for optimism or pessimism. Payrolls contracted in every Sixth District state in the state establishment survey; however,every Sixth District state’s unemployment rate declined in the state current population survey, with the exception of Alabama’s, which remained unchanged at a rate safely below the district and national rates of unemployment.

The bad news first
January was not a banner month for Sixth District payroll growth; in fact, the District kicked off the year with some relatively lousy labor market figures, according to new data out this week from the BLS. Last year, the Sixth District averaged about 33,600 new payroll jobs per month, but during the month of January alone, Sixth District states lost an aggregate 24,400 payrolls. On net, the Sixth District has not had a negative monthly payroll figure since July 2012, when the District lost about 3,900 payrolls, and to see a one-month loss the size of January’s, you’d have to look back to September 2010, when the Sixth District was still brushing itself off in the aftermath of the recession. (For reference, the largest one-month decline for the Sixth District as a whole was in May 2009, when 126,900 payrolls were cut across Sixth District states.)

However, to keep January’s payroll data in perspective, these one-month blips have not been unheard of throughout the recovery, and state and regional data from the BLS tend to be much noisier than the headline national figures that come out on the first Friday of every month. In fact, each year since 2010, we’ve seen incoming regional data grow a bit softer early on in the year, a phenomenon referred to previously by SouthPoint, various other media outlets, and on a few occasions by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart as a “spring swoon.” (Previously, these “swoons” have come a bit later in the year; maybe it’s seasonal adjustment procedures at the BLS, and maybe it’s because of other reasons.) Though one month of negative payroll data is not in itself a trend by any means, the last four months of data from the BLS do seem to show a pattern (see the table).

Table 1

Where and to what degree?
All six states in the Sixth District shed payrolls in January. Alabama had the largest decline in payrolls among Sixth District states in January, losing 8,200 payrolls during the month. Louisiana had the second-largest decline, dropping 6,900 payrolls. Mississippi payrolls dropped by 4,000, and payrolls in Florida (down 2,600) and Tennessee (down 2,100) fell by similar amounts. Georgia shed the fewest number of payrolls in January, giving up 600 payrolls, on net.

A couple of patterns seemed to emerge across state lines in January. Most notable are very large declines in retail industry payrolls (see the table). Employment in health care and social assistance also appeared to suffer in January.

Table 2

Retail me not
A decline of 10,900 payrolls in one sector, in one state, in one month (as the table above shows Florida experienced) warranted a call to our friends at the BLS. I was told that January is typically a weak month for hires, and the retail sector is particularly sensitive to seasonality. Retailers are usually coming off the much busier holiday season and are beginning to wind down staffing levels. Though the BLS strives to account for this in its seasonal-adjustment procedures, it’s virtually impossible to correct for all of it, especially in such a volatile economic and meteorological environment. (Even Florida had a colder winter than usual. While we were digging ourselves out of the epic—for us—snow storms in Atlanta, a friend in Miami reported temperatures “down into the upper 60s” and needing a light jacket in January.)

To get a greater level of detail on which kinds of retailers in Florida were letting go of the most jobs, we have to use data that are not seasonally adjusted. On a nonseasonally adjusted basis, the scary-looking payroll figure (a decline of 10,900) seen above becomes a jaw-dropping 34,000 decline, though much of this drop is the result of standard holiday employees leaving temporary positions (see the table).

Table 3

But unemployment rates are headed in the right direction…
Despite a decline in payrolls from every state across the District in January, state unemployment rates continued their slow downward crawl in all District states, with the exception of Alabama, which remained unchanged for the month at 6.1 percent (see the chart). It’s not uncommon for the two surveys to appear to be at odds with one another. The payroll survey is of employers—or “establishments”—and the household survey is (more intuitively) a survey of households; that is, of individuals. Both surveys attempt to measure employment. However, since it is necessary to speak to actual people (as opposed to speaking to a “business”) to determine the rate of unemployment for a given area, the unemployment rate is derived from the household survey. But since these are both surveys that are only able to capture responses from a small sample of people, disagreements between the two occur. (Unemployment rates can also decline while payroll growth is weak or negative because of a declining labor force, but that wasn’t the case this month. Four out of six District states actually saw increases in their labor force—Louisiana and Mississippi were the exceptions, and their labor forces only shrank by 2,000 and 300 people, respectively.)

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

Of Sixth District states, Louisiana had the lowest unemployment rate in January. There, the unemployment rate fell a half percentage point to reach 4.9 percent. Alabama’s rate of unemployment remained at 6.1 percent over the month, and Florida’s dropped 0.2 percentage point to reach 6.1 percent.

Three states still have unemployment rates higher than the Sixth District aggregate rate of unemployment, which fell to 6.5 percent in January. Tennessee tied with Louisiana in January for the largest drop in its unemployment rate, falling a half of a percentage point to reach 7.2 percent. Georgia’s unemployment rate ticked down slightly to reach 7.3 percent, while Mississippi continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the Sixth District, despite its rate falling 0.3 percentage point to reach 7.5 percent in January.

The next regional and state employment and unemployment report, reflecting data for February, is scheduled to be released next Friday, March 28, at 10:00 a.m. The next national employment report is scheduled the following Friday, April 4, at 8:30 a.m.

If you want to stay abreast of the latest Federal Reserve research and publications surrounding regional and national labor markets, as well as a host of other topics, you can check out the Atlanta Fed’s newly searchable Human Capital Compendium, which puts you at the forefront of developments related to labor markets and workforce development across all 12 Reserve Banks.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


March 20, 2014 in Employment, Jobs, Labor Markets, Retail, Southeast, Unemployment | Permalink

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12/31/2013

Georgia, Tennessee Lead Regional Payroll Growth in November

In November, 45 states had unemployment rate decreases, and the other five had no change, according to the monthly regional and state employment and unemployment summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All the states in the Atlanta Fed’s district were among those 45 states that saw declines in their unemployment rates, with the unemployment rates in both Georgia and Tennessee falling 0.4 percentage points (to 7.7 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively). The Sixth District aggregate unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to reach 7.0 percent, mirroring the trend and level of the national unemployment rate in November.

Georgia and Tennessee saw the largest growth in payrolls in the Sixth District in November as well, according to the same report. Georgia added 14,500 payrolls in November (see the table), with roughly a third of those new payrolls being in the construction industry (up 4,400 payrolls). Roughly another third of Georgia’s job gains were in transportation and warehousing industries (up 4,100 payrolls), and the other third of Georgia’s payroll growth in November was split between leisure and hospitality (up 2,900 payrolls) and financial activities (up 1,700 payrolls). Employment growth in real estate was notable last month (up 1,200 payrolls). Tennessee added 9,400 payrolls in November, with about 2,500 of those payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector and another 1,900 in durable goods–manufacturing industries.

Payroll Change Data

Three Sixth District states have unemployment rates higher than the national level of unemployment (Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and three sit below (Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana; see the chart).

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

The BLS will release metropolitan area employment and unemployment data for November, which will provide an even more granular view of regional labor markets, on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 10 a.m.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


December 31, 2013 in Employment, Georgia, Labor Markets, Southeast, Tennessee, Unemployment | Permalink

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An accurate and labor perspective on the economic growth and stability of the south of the U.S. Excellent document.

Posted by: Jean Pier Dorta | 01/02/2014 at 10:37 PM

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12/03/2013

Helping Understand Labor Markets

My colleague Mark Carter wrote about the latest state employment reports in a SouthPoint post last week. Near the end of his post, Mark mentioned the Atlanta Fed’s new state-by-state feature in our Jobs Calculator. I wanted to expand on his discussion of this new, interactive tool. The Jobs Calculator allows the user to calculate the net employment change needed to achieve a target unemployment rate after a specified number of months. You can adjust the target unemployment rate, the number of months, and the assumed labor force growth.

Julie Hotchkiss, a research economist and policy adviser in the Atlanta Fed's research department, created the Jobs Calculator and is responsible for this new regional feature. She wrote about it in detail in a recent macroblog post titled “Atlanta Fed's Jobs Calculator Drills Down to the States.”

Speaking of drilling down to the states, our Data Digests feature the latest state-level data for a number of regional labor market indicators. The monthly report, published by the Regional Economic Information Network (REIN), also contains state-level data and analysis on real estate, manufacturing activity, and other key indicators.

I want to mention one other tool on our website in the context of a recent speech by Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart. Last month in Montgomery, Alabama, he spoke about labor markets and the importance that identifying real, sustained improvement has on monetary policy:

Employment is growing at a pretty steady, if unspectacular, pace. Monthly job gains over the last six months have averaged 174,000. It's fair to say employment conditions are improving. The official rate of unemployment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 7.3 percent in October, down from 7.9 percent a year ago. Over the last year, the economy has created 2.3 million payroll jobs on net.

This is a good story, and an important story. When the current asset purchase program was announced in September 2012, private forecasters expected that the unemployment rate at the end of this year would be about 1/2 percentage point higher than it is today. In that sense, there has been substantial improvement in labor markets over the past year.

On the other hand, several measures of labor market health are less satisfactory. Long-term unemployment is at historically high levels. And the number of people working part time while looking for full-time work remains elevated. There are about 4 million more people unemployed today than before the recession. And there are significant numbers of discouraged workers who are not counted in the labor force who would return if conditions were more encouraging.

For this broader look at the national labor market, check out the Atlanta Fed’s labor market spider chart. This tool is designed to allow real-time tracking or monitoring of broad labor market developments by comparing current conditions to those in the fourth quarters of 2007 (the prerecession peak) and 2009 (the postrecession trough in employment). Indicators of labor market status are broken up into four groups: employer behavior, confidence, utilization, and leading indicators.

Whether it’s regional or national data, keeping up with labor market developments is central to understanding the general health of the economy. The features noted above are designed to help the Atlanta Fed and you do just that.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's public affairs department


December 3, 2013 in Employment, Jobs, Labor Markets, Unemployment | Permalink

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11/26/2013

Giving Thanks for Faster Payroll Growth

As we gear up to give thanks this week, the folks at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report last Friday that gave us one more thing to be grateful for: last month, the Southeast gained more payrolls (67,700) than any other month since May 2010, when labor markets began to feel the effects of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. (In May 2010, a significant share of new payrolls across southeastern states was in the government sector. In October 2013, states in the region added payrolls at a nice clip while to some degree shedding government payrolls—with the exception of Tennessee, where government payrolls held steady in October.) In fact, the BLS’s regional and state employment and unemployment summary for October—which included September data and was delayed because of the partial federal government shutdown—noted that Florida gained more payroll jobs in October (44,600) than any other U.S. state.

Indeed, the chart below shows Florida carried the Southeast in terms of payroll growth in October. The state not only added 44,600 payrolls last month, but that one-month addition brought the state’s year-to-date payroll creation (January–October 2013) to about 167,000. Florida has also seen the largest 12-month decline in its unemployment rate of any other state in the nation (down by 1.5 percentage points).

Contributions to Change in Net Payrolls, by Sixth District State

Despite the improving pace of progress in Florida’s labor market, though, the Sunshine State is still about 450,000 payrolls away from its last peak, in March 2007 (see the chart).

Total Nonagricultural Payrolls: Florida (left) and Sixth District (right)

Payrolls, by industry

Payroll growth, as usual, varied widely among southeastern states in October (see the table). Likewise, growth across industries within each state was also often uneven. Last month, the construction sector saw 10,500 new payrolls in Florida and 3,400 new payroll jobs in Louisiana. Likewise, leisure and hospitality industries saw 11,000 new payrolls in Florida and 3,100 in Louisiana. Georgia’s gains in manufacturing employment (3,700) were not enough to offset losses in the state’s retail, financial activities, and government sectors.

New Payrolls in the Southeast in October 2013

State unemployment rates

State unemployment rates also headed in a favorable direction last month, with the Sixth District’s aggregate unemployment rate now equal to the nation’s (see the chart). Three states now sit above the national and Sixth District rates of unemployment (Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and three are below (Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida). Three states in the region saw slight declines in their October unemployment rates. Alabama’s ticked up slightly (0.1 percentage point) to reach 6.5 percent, and Mississippi’s and Tennessee’s unemployment rates stayed the same.

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

How many payroll jobs should it take to make unemployment rates in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi equal the U.S. rate? Our new “State by State” tab on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jobs Calculator can tell you quickly. For example, to reach an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent in six months, Georgia would need to add 9,298 jobs per month, Tennessee would need to add 7,670 jobs per month, and Mississippi would need to add 2,775 jobs per month.

The BLS will release its next report on regional and state employment and unemployment at 10 a.m. on December 19.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department

 


November 26, 2013 in Employment, Jobs, Southeast, Unemployment | Permalink

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10/01/2013

Alabama Economy Improving

Alabama's economy could be poised for a modest upswing. During a recent presentation before a group of women entrepreneurs, Lesley McClure, the regional executive at the Atlanta Fed’s Birmingham Branch, said several of the state’s economic indicators were looking up. Notably, Alabama's unemployment rate (seen in the chart below) exceeded 10 percent in 2010 but declined to 6.3 percent by August 2013.



In addition, employment growth was up 2.1 percent from its lowest level during the recession. Importantly, however, total employment in the state declined by 7.7 percent during the recession, so there’s still a lot of ground to make up in the state's labor market. The chart below shows the employment decline Alabama and its major metro areas experienced during the downturn (red bars) and the gains logged during the recovery (blue bars).



Nationally, Lesley reported that labor market conditions have shown some improvement in recent months. Nevertheless, while the national unemployment rate has dropped to 7.3 percent, broad labor market conditions remain mixed. Some indicators are showing progress, but others still signal scant improvement. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart noted this fact in a speech earlier this week, noting that:

Significant progress has been accomplished just in the past year. The official unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1 percent to 7.3 percent, and payroll employment has grown by about 2.2 million jobs. Payroll job gains for the past 12 months have averaged 184,000 per month, but recently there appears to have been some slowing. The monthly average for the most recent three months is 148,000.

All outreach activities, like Lesley’s speech, include time for discussion and audience questions. On this occasion, Lesley heard several comments about how economic uncertainty was affecting business planning.

"Most of the attendees were small business owners, and they are very concerned about the economic outlook," Lesley said. "It was an important reminder to me of just how fast unforeseen developments can alter a business owner’s view of future prospects. As we make our economic forecasts, it’s important that we do so with this in mind."

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department


October 1, 2013 in Alabama, Economic Indicators, Employment, Unemployment | Permalink

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09/24/2013

Regional Job Growth Loses Some Traction

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Regional and State Employment and Unemployment report for August, which included data such as the new payrolls by industry, unemployment rates, and labor force participation rates at the state and regional levels. Given the economic diversity across the region, it’s not particularly surprising that payroll creation varied dramatically by state within the Sixth Federal Reserve District in August. Slightly more surprising, however, is that in the aggregate, the Sixth District had 3,500 fewer jobs in August than it did in July.

This decline represented the Sixth District’s first net loss in payrolls since July 2012. In large part, this drop is the result of Georgia and Florida giving back a large portion of the gains both states saw in July, when the district netted 44,400 new payrolls (see the chart). When averaging July and August together for the Sixth District, you get a figure much more in the neighborhood of the 2013 average (to date) of about 24,000 new payrolls each month.



Despite the declines in Georgia and Florida weighing heavily on the district’s overall payroll figure in August a few rays of sunshine were apparent in the report for the district:

  • Louisiana’s labor market saw an increase of 14,000 new payrolls in August. The largest increase by sector in the Louisiana last month was a 6,200 payroll jump in leisure and hospitality, with 5,400 of those showing up in accommodation and food services. Louisiana’s construction sector also saw an increase during the month to the tune of 2,200 new payrolls.
  • Despite Florida’s net negative payroll figure for the month, many sectors within the Sunshine State fared well in August: Florida added 4,700 construction payrolls last month while also adding 4,100 payrolls in wholesale trade. The state also added 2,000 manufacturing payrolls in August. The drags on Florida’s net figure last month were in education and health services (down 4,300 payrolls), leisure and hospitality (down 4,400 payrolls), and government (down 2,300 payrolls).

Sixth District unemployment rates
The Sixth District aggregate unemployment rate remained at 7.6 percent in August, where it has remained since April. The unemployment rate fluctuated very little by state in August for Sixth District states (see the chart). Alabama’s unemployment rate added 0.1 percentage point to reach 6.3 percent and was the only Sixth District state to have a higher unemployment rate in August than in July. Rates stayed the same in Louisiana (7 percent) and Tennessee (8.5 percent). Rates edged down 0.1 percentage point in Florida (7 percent), Georgia (8.7 percent), and Mississippi (8.5 percent).



Sixth District labor force participation rates
The Employment Situation report released by the BLS on September 6 reported 169,000 new payrolls added in August and that the unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to reach 7.3 percent. Those two statistics don’t look all that bad, but beneath the headline, we saw large downward revisions for June and July payroll figures, and we sawthat 312,000 people left the U.S. labor force in August, a huge factor in the decline in the unemployment rate last month. This large number of people departing the labor force also led to August seeing the lowest labor force participation rate (LFPR), 63.2 percent, since August 1978. (For more on trends related to the national LFPR, see this recent post on the Atlanta Fed’s macroblog.)

While it’s no secret that southeastern states have generally had a lower LFPR than the national average, the declining trend seen in the national LFPR also occurred through August across Sixth District States (see the chart). As of August, Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest LFPRs in the Sixth District, with participation rates of 57 percent. Georgia’s, at 63.4 percent, remains the highest within the district, with an LFPR just a hair above the national rate.



The next national Employment Situation report comes out on October 4, and the next regional update from the BLS will be out on October 22. Until then, you can catch up on the Federal Reserve’s latest research focusing on unemployment, labor force participation, and a host of other labor market issues by checking out the Human Capital Compendium in the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Human Capital Studies.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


September 24, 2013 in Economic Growth and Development, Economic Indicators, Employment, Southeast, Unemployment | Permalink

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08/22/2013

Employment Rebound Gains Momentum in Florida and Georgia

Usually about two weeks after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases the closely watched national Employment Situation Report, they release a Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary that gives much more geographic detail on where payroll growth is occurring (or not occurring) across the nation. Parallel to the national Employment Situation Report, the BLS uses two survey methodologies. To gauge the level of new payrolls by industry for each state, the BLS uses the Payroll Survey, and for the number of employed and unemployed persons, changes in the labor force, and a few other labor market statistics (such as state unemployment rates), the BLS uses the Household Survey. (You can read details about the methodologies of each survey, as well as distinctions between the two.)

Payroll Survey
The regional and state release for July 2013 came out on Monday of this week, and it showed that Georgia had the second largest month-over-month increase in new payrolls across the nation, adding a net of 30,900 payrolls, and Florida was close behind with 27,600 net new payrolls in July. The other four Sixth District states, though, saw losses in payrolls last month: Mississippi shed 3,900 payrolls while Alabama lost 3,700; Tennessee gave up 2,500 payrolls and Louisiana shed 800 payrolls in July.



Within Georgia’s large gains over the month, 8,200 payrolls came in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, with 5,500 of those in retail industries. July 2012 saw the largest addition of payrolls in retail that Georgia has seen since February 2011. Government added 7,200 payrolls in Georgia last month, which came almost entirely at the local level (6,000 of the new 7,200 payrolls), and the rest came at the state level (1,600 payrolls); the federal government actually shed 400 payrolls in Georgia last month. I’ll inject a word of caution about reading too much into the July leap in local government employment. A July 31 SouthPoint post noted that seasonal adjustments during the summer months can be tricky. Elsewhere in Georgia, the leisure and hospitality sector added 5,500 payrolls in July, almost exclusively within accommodation and food services industries. For more on recent developments in the Georgia economy, see the SouthPoint post from August 5. Also, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart recently noted that:

Employment continues on a positive trend in most sectors in our state. The monthly labor market data for the state are quite volatile, but looking through the noise, we can see that the fundamental signals suggest the state is gaining momentum even though we have not yet returned to our prerecession pace of growth.

Florida also saw large gains in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector last month (up by 13,100 payrolls), with 10,400 of those payrolls coming in retail industries; you have to look a pretty long way back to see that kind of one-month change in payrolls in Florida’s retail sector (April 1997, to be exact). Professional and business services were also part of Florida’s strength last month (up by 8,200 payrolls). Florida’s leisure and hospitality sector added 5,900 payrolls in July: accommodation and food services industries actually added 6,100 payrolls last month, but this gain was offset by a reduction of 200 payrolls at arts, entertainment, and recreation industries across the state.

Household Survey
The Sixth District’s unemployment rate, an aggregate measure of Sixth District states’ unemployment rates, was unchanged at 7.6 percent in July.  (Recall that the national unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent in June to 7.4 percent in July.) The largest drop in state unemployment rates in July was Mississippi, which dropped from 9.0 percent to 8.5 percent in July. The largest increase in unemployment rate was in Georgia, ironically where payroll growth was strong last month; Georgia’s unemployment rate ticked up from 8.5 percent in June to 8.8 percent in July. The Peach State now has the highest unemployment rate within the Sixth District. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points in Alabama to reach 6.3 percent in July; Alabama remains the Sixth District state with the lowest unemployment rate. Unemployment rates were unchanged in Florida (at 7.1 percent), Louisiana (at 7.0 percent), and in Tennessee (at 8.5 percent).



The next national Employment Situation Report from the BLS will be out on Friday, September 6, at 8:30 a.m. The next regional and state employment and unemployment report, providing state-level detail, will be released Friday, September 20, at 10:00 a.m.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


August 22, 2013 in Economic Indicators, Employment, Labor Markets, Southeast, Unemployment | Permalink

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08/15/2013

Cleveland Rocks!

Readers of SouthPoint will recall my affinity for Cleveland’s professional sports teams. It’s been a long time since we have won anything (1964, to be exact; the year BEFORE I was born, by the way). But I’ll proclaim the drought partially over with Jason Dufner’s recent win at the PGA Championship. “Duf” is a Cleveland native, so I think that should count. He’s also lived in the Southeast and went to college here, so it’s a win for the Sixth Federal Reserve District as well.

Since I’m not a sportswriter, I’ll cut right to the point of the Cleveland link. It’s not really a link between Cleveland, Ohio, and sports victories. It’s a link between Cleveland, Tennessee, and economic victories.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Cleveland, Tennessee metro area has experienced the largest increase in total employment (on a percent change basis) since the onset of the national recession in late 2007, at 7.8 percent. It appears that Cleveland is benefiting from its proximity to the Volkswagen auto manufacturing plant in Chattanooga and the rebound in national housing, which has increased demand for household durables—something that is benefiting the Whirlpool appliance manufacturing plant in Cleveland, as an Atlanta Fed publication recently noted.

Hinesville-Fort Stewart, Georgia, is next on the list with a 7.7 percent gain since December 2007. Much of that gain is no doubt tied to military base adjustments, as are the gains logged by Clarksville, Tennessee, and Warner Robins, Georgia. Nashville’s 6 percent increase is perhaps the most impressive and has the most impact, as it represents a net increase of 46,300 jobs. Knoxville is the other Tennessee metro area whose current employment levels are ahead of December 2007 readings.

In Louisiana, employment levels in the cities of Lafayette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge are currently above prerecession levels. Alabama has two metro areas in positive territory: Auburn-Opelika and Tuscaloosa. Currently, Auburn is ahead of Tuscaloosa in terms of employment gains, and I will diplomatically refrain from making any analogies to college football...

The following table lists the region’s metro areas and shows the net change in total employment from December 2007 to June 2013 in terms of both total and percent change. What stands out is the fact that just 11 of the 65 metro areas in the region are at employment levels that are higher than they were in December 2007. It’s sobering to think that employment levels, although improving, are still so far below prerecession levels in most the of region.



That said, it is just as important to acknowledge that the region’s labor markets are improving. The chart below shows the level of total employment and the unemployment rate for the six states that are wholly or partially in the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s District (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee).



As Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart noted in his August 13 speech to the Atlanta Kiwanis,

We have continued to see steady progress in economic fundamentals, in my opinion. Progress is evident, and we should not lose sight of that.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department


August 15, 2013 in Employment, Growth, Nashville, Southeast, Tennessee, Unemployment | Permalink

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07/31/2013

'Tis the Season to Seasonally Adjust

I have a long commute. (This is Atlanta—who doesn’t?) During my trek into the office last week, I heard an alarming account on the radio about Georgia’s unemployment rate. The report noted that the state’s unemployment rate had jumped to 9.3 percent in June—its highest level in nearly a year. Thankfully, I’m kind of a data geek and I reckoned that this figure was the nonseasonally adjusted number. The radio report didn’t mention that detail, but it’s a pretty important one. Here’s why.

Economists refrain from reading too much into month-to-month fluctuations in nonseasonally adjusted data. Rather, they tend to look at data that are seasonally adjusted. It’s not a trick or a way to spin the data. It is a statistically sound method that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series. This permits easier observation and analysis of cyclical, trend, and other nonseasonal movements in the data. By eliminating seasonal fluctuations, the series becomes smoother and it is easier to compare data from month to month.”

Labor market data are particularly susceptible to the influence of seasonal factors during the summer months. Think of the school year: New graduates entering the labor force, teachers off for the summer, school administrators and maintenance workers scaling back, etc. These workers return later in the summer when school reopens (something my kids are dreading, by the way). Other seasonal factors affect the data at other points in the year, such as retailers that step up hiring over the holidays, then return to pre-holiday staffing levels in January.

The chart below compares shows Georgia’s nonseasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted unemployment rates from January 2011 through June 2013.



The nonseasonally adjusted data show much greater volatility, most notably during the summer months and over the holidays, than do the seasonally adjusted data. The spike in June 2013 is particularly notable.

The table below shows the difference in unemployment rates among states in the Southeast. All experienced much larger jumps in the nonseasonally adjusted measure in June than they did for the seasonally adjusted gauge.



Another way to account for seasonal factors is to look at the year-over-year percent change in the nonseasonally adjusted data, which we do in the chart below. Compared with last June, Georgia has fewer total unemployed—2.3 percent fewer, to be exact.



You’ve probably noticed a couple of things in the charts above. In the first chart, even the seasonally adjusted data show an increase in Georgia’s unemployment rate. In the second chart, while the year-over-year percent change in nonseasonally adjusted level of unemployed is negative, it is decidedly less negative that it has been. The message here is that regardless of which unemployment rate measurement you look at, they continue to reflect high levels of unemployment. But it’s important to recognize that seasonally adjusted data better reflect the underlying trends in labor market data.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department


July 31, 2013 in Georgia, Labor Markets, Southeast, Unemployment | Permalink

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